Abandon All Fear

What nobody else seems to be saying…

[Comment Sharing] The Wrath of God

Posted by Lex Fear on November 13, 2008

Over at The County Shrink, a heartfelt response to a reluctant atheist:

Believe it or not, I at one time, was in a similar position. You have a
lot of questions about Christianity. So did I. And we are not alone.
All believers have doubts at times. In fact, I think doubt is a
necessary part of faith. It wouldn’t be called faith, if there was no
doubt.

Reluctant atheist Nick, left a further comment below the post:

I badly want to throw the towel in, and believe again. but i can’t accept the unmerciful side of God.

I didn’t want to risk an online debate particularly because it’s my first comment at TCS but I felt compelled to make a respond with the following (now I just wish I could find the motivation to write my own blog posts):

For me, doubt has been an essential component of my faith. It has been doubt that has steered me to believe.

Each time I question the bible, God, events or my experience, I find simple reasons to walk away from it all.. which is a problem for me, it’s too simple. Christianity is complex and causes a serious enquirer such as myself to think. On the other hand, as an atheist (11 years ago) I never really had much to consider.

There are places in the bible where God intervenes which makes him appear unmerciful, angry even. Once again this indicates that God is a rational being, not just a one-dimensional character-piece in a made up religion.

Nick, I can see you are wrestling with some deep-seated theological questions. May I suggest you read CS Lewis – The Problem of Pain. Also I find the bible itself lends a hand when it comes to understanding Gods mercy – Romans 9:22.

In the UK here we have just had a horrific case of child abuse that has hit the headlines. If we accept that God can see the future and destinies of all people, would it be fair for God to intervene before the abuse happened (eg. prevented the child from being born in order to spare it). For God to then strike down the adults involved before the child was born, punish them before society was even aware of their evil nature?

Perhaps, and we can’t say for certain whether this is already happening since we only have the benefit of hindsight and not the ability to predict destinies.

However, the very existence of evil in this world is an indication of Gods patience and mercy. If one examines the old testament, one sees that when God planned to wipe out a city or a tribe, he always revealed his plans to his prophets first, or he would make his people agents in the destruction. Since God is God, and can destroy as easily as bring to life, why would he approach his people beforehand, or even request they carry out these actions?

Perhaps it is easier to frame it in terms of modern law. Say I was caught speeding, but when I was pulled over the officer can see I have my pregnant wife in the car who is in labour and needs to get to the hospital. What police officer will hold me up, read out my rights and issue me with a ticket whilst my wifes contractions get shorter and shorter in the seat next to me.

I have broken traffic law by speeding, for sure, but any reasonable police officer is going to make a decision to allow the law-break in this instance. Even if some jobsworth officer still decides to issue a ticket.. it’s likely a judge would cancel it on appeal – despite the law, as set by government, being broken.

Laws make society work, but they are never meant to be nor should be used to totalitarian effect. A government that becomes totalitarian in application of its laws will lose the support of its people and risk uprising or rebellion.

In the same way, God made laws for his people, and offered them the choice to live by them or not. When they chose to live by them, and signed the contract, then the law had to be obeyed. But God, rather than simply enforce the law with impunity, instead entrusted the enforcement to his people, continually involving them in his plans to carry out the actions and punishment related to the laws being broken.

So again we must ask, why would God approach prophets before carrying out punishment; Why does the government employ judges to effect it’s laws (considering where the concept of ‘judges’ was taken from)?

My belief is this: God was not looking for people to carry out his wrath, he was looking for intercessors, perhaps even people to debate with him and refuse to carry out said wrath.

How would we know mercy, if there were no laws, no righteousness or ultimate authority to ensure they were carried out.

And how would God reveal his mercy without giving power to judge and carry out punishment, to his creation?

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